In one of the few gatherings of each of the 15 candidates for Santa Monica City Council, the candidates were polled on a diversity of city issues, from the future of the airport to a half-cent sales tax measure on the ballot.
The 10 candidates seeking the three, four-year seats and the five candidates vying for the two, two-year seats on the City Council in the Nov. 2 election met together on stage for a combined forum at the Santa Monica Main Library less than a month before the election. Divided into three groups, the candidates, some incumbents and others seeking their first terms, were posed questions from residents and local groups and organizations on some topics at the forefront of the coastal community.
The 10 four-year term candidates include incumbents Bob Holbrook, Kevin McKeown and Pam O’Connor, and challengers Jerry Rubin, Linda Armstrong, Ted Winterer, Terence Later, Jean McNeil Wyner, Daniel Cody and Jon Louis Mann. Those seeking two-year terms include current appointed council members Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day, and Robert Kronovet, David Ganezer and Susan Hartley.
The candidates have since met at other community events to continue pushing their platforms as the campaign reaches its final weeks.
Due to the structure of the Oct. 11 library forum, the candidates were not each asked about the same topic, but could opt to respond to a question posed to another group.
The Santa Monica Airport is one issue that has drawn much public attention and media coverage in the last year, as the Federal Aviation Administration tested an alternate flight path for piston-powered aircraft and a recent study was done on noise and air pollution while the airport’s runway was closed for four-day maintenance. With a possible changeover of the airport property up for discussion with the FAA in 2015, some of the candidates were asked about the facility’s future.
McKeown said he had asked for a study to be performed on noise and pollution while the airport was closed, and for the first time, the city has a baseline of what life could be like without the airport.
“I want to start a public process on what to do with our land by 2015 and involve the whole community,” he said.
O’Connor said the city has already started a process for the airport plans in 2015 and the community needs to work together, while McNeil Wyner, a community liaison, said the city needs to “vigorously discuss” the future of the airport with the FAA. In regards to pollution concerns, Cody, a software professional, said the airport needs to pursue policies that reduce the carbon emissions from aircraft.
Another issue that was spotlighted in the city this year and addressed by some candidates was the approval of the Land Use and Circulation Element update of the General Plan. The LUCE provides a vision to help guide development in the city over the next 20 years.
O’Day, a former planning commissioner, said there was an engaging community process to approve the LUCE, which he called “a national example of good land use planning.”
“One of the great things (LUCE) does is it tries to take development out of our neighborhoods and move it on to transit rich corridors,” Davis said.
Asked if the city should be involved in the creation of workforce housing, Davis said she supports providing housing for first responders, while Kronovet, a Rent Control Board member, countered, “I don’t believe that government should have its nose in housing.” Hartley, an attorney, responded that she is in favor of maintaining workforce housing and wants to ensure the city is utilizing its existing housing stock.
In regards to Measure Y and Measure YY on the Nov. 2 ballot, those candidates polled had differing views about the need for the measures. If approved, Measure Y would create a half-cent sales tax to support various city services, while Measure YY is an advisory measure that asks voters if they support using half of the money generated to benefit the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Some expressed support for both measures, while others only backed YY.
Due to the budget challenges cities across the nation are facing, some of the candidates were asked where they would make cuts to the budget if required. Holbrook refuses to cut emergency services but said some services done on a regular basis, such as tree trimming and street cleaning, might need to be cut. Winterer, a planning commissioner, agreed that cuts could be considered to non-essential services that can be deferred, but he would leave public safety and schools untouched.
While the expansion of park space was supported across the board, the candidates questioned on the issue had differing perspectives on how to achieve that objective.
As they inch closer to Election Day, the candidates were asked to look to the future of their four-year or two-year terms respectively, if elected, and reflect on some of their achievements. Some, including those seeking first terms, want to focus on bringing change to the council. For the incumbents, they hope to apply their experience and work toward new goals such as helping integrate light rail into the city with the extension of the Metro Exposition Line.